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Alzheimer Europe contributes to Commission's reflection process on Chronic Diseases

Monday 30 April 2012

On 30 April, Alzheimer Europe finalised its contribution to the European Commission reflection process on Chronic Diseases. This is in response to a series of questions that were put forward to the public:

- what should be done on health promotion and disease prevention?

- how does healthcare deal with prevention, treatment and care of chronic diseases?

- how does research contribute to the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases?

- how can information and information technology contribute?

- what should be the roles of Members States, the EU and stakeholders?

- what are other areas to consider when dealing with chronic diseases?

In its response, Alzheimer Europe extended the Commission’s definition of chronic diseases to include the idea that chronic diseases of a neurodegenerative nature, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, are unpreventable and do not benefit from any curative treatment.  The ageing of the population and the increase in age-related diseases (such as dementia) will follow this trend. It is therefore important to include these diseases in the reflection process.

Alzheimer Europe advocates early diagnosis of dementia, awareness campaigns, multi-sectorial policies that will respond to the need of people with dementia and their carers. This includes social, care, education, health, work and research policies.

EU Joint Actions are important instruments that facilitate the collection and sharing of best practice across Europe and support both national and EU policy work. This can be illustrated by ALCOVE, the current Joint Action on dementia.

National Plans on dementia that include health promotion, reduced exposure to risk factors and early diagnosis as key elements should become a reality all over Europe.

In the field of research, the Joint Programming of Neuro-Degenerative research (JPND) is a promising instrument that must be further supported by the current Framework Programme for Research and the next research programme Horizon 2020.

Alzheimer Europe also advocates the establishment of a European Dementia Observatory to collect and maintain data on the prevalence of dementia.

Additional actions should: 1) target individuals who are at risk of developing dementia, 2) the identification of European Guidelines for quality assurance in dementia screening and diagnosis and 3) lead to the implementation of a European specialist dementia unit accreditation scheme that would enable people with dementia and their carers to identify which dementia units in Europe meet the quality standards.

Alzheimer Europe also invites the European Commission to set up a Chronic Diseases Task Force with EU and national policy makers, healthcare professionals and patient representatives covering both preventable and unpreventable chronic diseases.

All too often, young people with dementia are not considered in the discussions or strategies put in place. Activities such as Corporate Social Responsibility must support young people with dementia to be active and participate in society for as long as possible.

Patient and carer organisations have a broad grass-roots understanding of peoples' expectations and experience, including stigma. These organisations must be recognised as full partners and receive the necessary financial and logistical support to contribute to the discussions.

The European Commission (DG SANCO) launched the reflection process on the growing challenge of chronic diseases in response to the Council conclusions on “Innovative approaches for chronic diseases in public health and healthcare systems” of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs of December 2010. This was reinforced by the conclusions of the UN High Level Meeting on non-communicable diseases in 2011 which confirmed that addressing chronic diseases is now a global priority.

The Commission intends to launch a further, targeted discussion with key stakeholders involved in European work with the European Commission in the areas of chronic disease and related issues.